District: 32 percent of kindergartners chronically miss school

Mike Lamb, Staff Writer
Desert Dispatch

Desert Dispatch
By: Mike Lamb, Staff Writer
Posted: May 24, 2014

BARSTOW • Barstow Unified School District, with the help from a program called Attendance2Attendance, is working to change the culture within its schools when it comes to students missing school days.

Cara DiBlasio, a representative with School Innovations & Achievement, presented the attendance report to the Board of Trustees on May 13. SI&A developed the Attendance2Attendance program that BUSD implemented four years ago.

“You really have changed the culture within your district that’s not just about showing up, not just about attendance,” DiBlasio said. “But it’s about showing up, being there, being present, ready to learn, being engaged every single day.”

DiBlasio, however, pointed to data that supports the district’s concern of where more improvement could be made. According to 2013-14 report on excused absences, 32 percent of kindergartners in BUSD have missed seven or more full days. The average for all kindergartners in all California school districts using the Attendance2Attendance program is 14 percent.

The percentage drops slightly to 31 percent in BUSD for students who are absent 10 percent of the school year. The percentage is 15 percent for all California school districts using the Attendance2Attendance program.

“It’s very common to see high number of kindergartners and in early grades to be excessively absent,” DiBlasio said. “It’s the first time going to school, getting illnesses, sometimes parents need to keep students home. We want to communicate how important it is to be in school every day.”

BUSD Superintendent Jeff Malan agreed.

“Traditionally, kindergarten absences are higher than other grade levels. Parents can be protective of their students and want to be assured their child is well cared for. It’s the parent instinct to be protective,” Malan said. “We want to assure parents the district will take care of their child.”

To help kindergartners and their parents to cope with adjusting to school, Malan says the district has implemented pre-kindergarten classes. He said the young students are doing well in those classes and parent commitment is the key.

DiBlasio told trustees that the district is doing an “incredible job” informing parents when students are not in school.

“You are creating a culture of achievement,” she said. “You are getting away from just talking about attendance, but talking about achievement as a whole. It starts with creating a culture of showing up.”